Resume on Red Paper?

Remember high school? Go on, think back…for some of you, way back! Did you ever open your locker and find an envelope in it that smelled of perfume? I did. Back then I thought it was groovy, and it got my interest focused pretty quickly in wanting to open it up because I was sure the reading would be good. And back then, I was right.

Back before we had started dating, I recall my wife sending me an envelope with a hand-drawn picture of lips on the back with the words, “Sealed with a kiss” written on it too. It was not only groovy, it was totally out of sight, and I was hip to the trip.

Okay enough about my single days in high school and University. My point is nobody talks like that anymore, and I haven’t seen a perfumed envelope or got one with, ‘sealed with a kiss’ on it in decades. In both cases, those two envelopes stood out and got my attention, so is it a good idea in 2014 to send an unusual envelope to the company when you want to make sure they look at your resume and application if it’s arriving by post?

Generally the answer here is, ‘No’. Something as gimmicky as a red envelope may in fact get noticed as it stands out from the traditional white or brown envelope that’s true. But whose opening the mail? Likely not the person doing the short-listing of those to be interviewed or the Hiring Manager. No doubt it’s the Secretary or someone in Human Resources. And while you may think yourself creative with a flair for getting noticed, it may not have the intended results you want. You might be seen as unprofessional, wacky, a jokester and not to be taken seriously, and ultimately rejected.

The perfumed envelope will just show the company that you don’t know about their scent-free policy; you know, the one instituted because the Hiring Manager has allergic reactions to cologne and perfumes. Oops! Rejected. How could you possibly be expected to know about that scent-free policy? Oh it was clearly stated on their website.

Put yourself in the position of the people both receiving and reviewing resumes and applications. If you were reading a single resume, you might be up for reading something unusual. But don’t mistake the fact that they get many resumes to mean you should stand out visually with red paper. Stand out you should; but stand out with your content and writing style not some gimmick.

“But I know this guy who got an interview with some coloured paper” you say? Well it could be that the person was in the entertainment or acting field where being unconventional is encouraged. It could also be they just wanted to see who would actually show up. Did that guy get a job offer or just an interview?

Pictures on a resume or attached are good things if you are an actor, model, television personality etc. Pictures on most people’s resumes should be discouraged. If a company was making decisions on who to have in for interviews based in part on how the people looked who applied, they might be open to lawsuits and actually decline to read on even if you were qualified. This is exactly the case at one company I know. Send a picture and get rejected out of hand.

Go into some stores that sell packages of paper and you might find that there some with decorative borders and they might appeal to you. These might be appropriate for writing poetry on, making certificates on, but for a business resume – never.

Think about your personal branding and the message you send. Be a professional and be someone to be taken seriously. Sell your skills, pitch your personal value, demonstrate your abilities. You should stand out because you have accomplishments that interest others in having you as part of their workforce. Perhaps you’ve increased sales, obtained some level of education, worked abroad, been able to come in and clean up a mess. And if you are going for a job on an assembly line where it’s unlikely you’ve done incredible things elsewhere, maybe highlighting your perfect attendance record would stack up well in a company who stresses attendance, safety and performance.

Clues as to what a company values aren’t that hard to find. You can visit a website, read up on their values and mission statements, get copies of their financial documents and year-end reports that will give you facts on what health they are in financially, and if it’s not great but you’re good at turning thins around, there’s your edge.

Oh and the perfume? Many years ago now I knew of a woman who spritzed herself with a small quantity of perfume. At the interview, she noted that the person interviewing her seemed increasingly displeased and made facial expressions that told her things weren’t going well. She couldn’t understand why the interview was putting her chances in jeopardy because her answers were strong and her qualifications were solid. It was only at the end when the interview correctly guessed the perfume she was wearing, and made the comment, “That was my ex-wife’s favourite”, that she put two and two together and assumed it reminded him of her. She didn’t get the job, and always wondered if she’d not used perfume that day if things might have been different.


“Gee you smell terrific!” or “I’m sorry, you’ll have to reschedule your interview.”

Our society is changing in many ways; one of which has to do with the overuse of cologne and perfume. More and more people are having adverse reactions to scents leading many companies to adopt scent free workplace rules and guidelines.

Now don’t get me wrong. I strongly admit to enjoying the lingering aroma from a woman’s perfume 3 or 4 seconds after she passes me on the street. “Wow….that’s nice whatever it was” I think to myself. However, my own workplace has a policy against the use of scented products that means such people who show up with strong odours about them would be asked to leave and return without the perfume smell.

So imagine for example that you get your interview, you dress sharply, rehearse your questions, practice anticipated answers to interviewers’ questions, and do all your homework. Then you spray Chanel No. 5 all over your wrists, neck and head off to the interview across the parking lot where you’ve parked. You walk in confident, and the first thing that happens upon your arrival is you’re informed that the company has a scent free policy and you cannot proceed. Maybe at best you can go to the washroom and try and remove the scent but failing this, you may have to reschedule or at it’s worst, miss the interview completely and the chance to compete. You just took yourself out of the interview process.

Do your best to research company policy or even call ahead and ask a Receptionist or Secretary. If there is no such policy, a little is much better than a bath in it anyway. I once heard of an interviewer who made a decision not to offer a woman a position with the company, and the decision was influenced by the fact that the interviewers ex-wife used the same perfume and he associated the negative vibes from the divorce with the applicant in front of him. Sure, sure, I agree that’s not being very objective, but it was the very real result of the choice that applicant made in the morning to spritz it on.